Daisy Miller


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Travelling in Europe with her family, Daisy Miller, an exquisitely beautiful young American woman, presents her fellow-countryman Winterbourne with a dilemma he cannot resolve. Is she deliberately flouting social convention in the outspoken way she talks and acts, or is she simply ignorant of those conventions? When she strikes up an intimate friendship with an urbane young Italian, her flat refusal to observe the codes of respectable behaviour leave her perilously exposed. In "Daisy Miller" James created his first great ...

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Susan TW

Jan 12, 2012

Not James' Best

I had to read this in college and was quite open to all kinds of Victorian and Edwardian literature, having been a long-time fan of the ever-depressing Thomas Hardy. However the character of Daisy was so annoying and falsely capricious (I mean forced to be so by the author) that I couldn't sympathize with her at all.

The other characters and settings were seen through her eyes, unfortunately, as boring and worthless. So there was no redeeming reason to pay close attention to much in this book. It put me off reading anything else by Henry James for a long time. Luckily, I got over it, but this still rates as one of his least impressive works, in my estimation.

What I found ironically funny was that the film version, with California girl, Cybil Shepherd, really captured Daisy's vapidity so well, though I'm sure that was not their intention. It was probably why it received such bad reviews.* That this was so speaks for the book as well, since most of James' novels have translated so well into film ("The Europeans", "the Bostonians", "The Golden Bowl", "Portrait of a Lady" and so on).

* "Miscast" is Emmanuel Levy's view of Shepherd and he is not alone.
"Painfully boring, the acting is wooden and unappealing, a misguided mess." - James Higgins
Still others wonder what director Peter Bogdanovich was thinking, after a string of three major hits. Maybe it was the material!

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